The chessplayer and the non chessplayer will read this classic novella in different ways The non chessplayer sees it as a tragedy where the noble but unworldly Dr B is defeated by the oafish but practical Czentovic Chess is used to symbolize the pure world of the mind, where Dr B should triumph due to his superior intellectual powers, but discovers that his opponent s ruthlessness and greed are stronger Czentovic cannot win fairly, but is perfectly happy to cheat.The chessplayer would like to read the story this way, but can t unfortunately, he knows that chess is not the way it is depicted in Zweig s fable In real life, Dr B would not stand a chance against Czentovic Chess is a practical skill, which cannot be acquired in the way described here.This, to the chessplayer, is the real tragedy Chess should be the noble game of the story, and even appears to be so for the uninitiated It is only after a great deal of work has been invested trying to master it that its true nature becomes clear.Tragedy indeed We Are Never AloneWith astounding concision in a short story about chess, Zweig outlines a profound psychological theory that a human being s greatest resource the ability to reflect upon himself and his actions is also his greatest vulnerability Experience alone, without the capacity to reflect upon it, provides rigid rules for responding to situations which never quite repeat themselves Reflective ability creates the ability to cope with entirely novel conditions through the power to re shape the rules, to imagine alternative experiences By standing, as it were, outside ourselves, we are able to create a context for ourselves, and consequently meaning.On the other hand this reflective ability implies a self fragmentation into the white ego and the black ego and the potential for an induced schizophrenia or, generally, for debilitating mental illness Pushed to an extreme of sensual deprivation, Zweig suggests, we may be able to save ourselves from insanity through imagination But this route to salvation is dangerously close to a different kind of insanity We are tempted to move from an absence of meaning to an obsessive singular meaning which dominates the self that creates it.The implication of course is that neuroses are purposeful, even heroic responses to difficult circumstances Having used these neuroses successfully, they threaten to become habitual And it is at that point we need some sort of friendly helping hand to avoid disaster Not quite Freudian therefore, but very Viennese.Postscript An interesting recent philosophical piece on the same general idea may be found in Sloman and Fernbach s The Knowledge Illusion #Read E-pub ì Schachnovelle ⚸ Chess Story, Also Known As The Royal Game, Is The Austrian Master Stefan Zweig S Final Achievement, Completed In Brazilian Exile And Sent Off To His American Publisher Only A Matter Of Days Before His Suicide In It Is The Only Story In Which Zweig Looks At Nazism, And He Does So With Characteristic Emphasis On The PsychologicalTravelers By Ship From New York To Buenos Aires Find That On Board With Them Is The World Champion Of Chess, An Arrogant And Unfriendly Man They Come Together To Try Their Skills Against Him And Are Soundly Defeated Then A Mysterious Passenger Steps Forward To Advise Them And Their Fortunes Change How He Came To Possess His Extraordinary Grasp Of The Game Of Chess And At What Cost Lie At The Heart Of Zweig S StoryThis New Translation Of Chess Story Brings Out The Work S Unusual Mixture Of High Suspense And Poignant Reflection The one limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite these people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world. Chess, the Royal Game , regally eschews the tyranny of chance and awards its palms of victory only to the intellect, or rather to a certain type of intellectual gift. Stefan Zweig plunges the reader into this cold, calculating world through a simple premise of a chess match between the reigning world champion and a mysterious doctor who reveals an incredible knowledge of the game s strategy despite his claims that he hasn t touched a chessboard for over twenty years In a mere 80 pages, Zweig s Chess Story, reaches an emotional and psychological depth that leaves the reader shivering with horror through a haunting allegory of Nazi Germany where human lives are mere wooden pieces to be strategically moved and sacrificed by an indifferent hand Zweig s grasp on human nature is chillingly accurate, and the few characters presented come alive through such simple descriptions of their psychology, made easily accessible through having a psychologist serve as the narrator Czentovic, the reigning world chess champion, quickly develops into a lifelike monomaniac through the brief summary of his life This apathetic, uneducated youth miraculously develops a keen intellect for chess, being described as Balaam s ass when his talents are revealed, and quickly defeats chess masters across the world which transformed his original lack of self confidence into a cold pride that for the most part he did not trouble to hide. Zweig presents us with a highly unlikeable adversary, a wealthy, self important man who looks upon all those around him as if they were lifeless wooden pieces despite his vulgar manners and boundless ignorance towards anything intellectual aside from chess there is a wonderful aside where the narrators fried remarks isn t it damn easy to think you re a great man if you aren t troubled by the slightest notion that Rembrandt, Beethoven, Dante, or Napoleon even existedWe can all put a face to this character, we ve all encountered someone vain and offensive who, despite our disdain, will always be able to sneer down upon us because we are no match to the one talent they hold most dear While aboard a steamship, the passengers arrange a chess match with the great Czentovic, him versus all others, in which he crushed them in the first game without hiding his arrogance of being the superior Enter our hero, Dr B, an immediately likeable, shy and nervous man with an immense intellect that bestows a method for forcing a draw with the great chess master For the majority of the novella, the reader must face the horrors of Dr B s pas to understand where his talents grew, somehow blossoming in the cracks of soul crushing interment in the Gestapo headquarters Often relaying the story in the second person, the use of you brings the reader into maddening solitude of Dr B, enduring his pain along with him, and even the most calloused of readers must come away with a residue of unbearable horrors and madness forever coating their consciousness Zweig, having fled his home in Austria in fear of the Nazis, forces the reader to witness and endure a fate worse than the sickening dehumanization and deathly labor of a concentration camp, but to share in his solitude, emphasized in frightening proportions by Dr B s torment that is a force sophisticated than crude beating of physical torture the most exquisite isolation imaginable.The allegory presented in the novella is sickening enough to rot any heart We have Germany ruled by an inhumane, obdurate hand, cold and calculating in each move it makes, and we have the artistic mind going mad in solitude Creativity and art is trampled by the sinister, calculating powers that march forward seeking victory, unshaken by the countless lives that must be sacrificed to achieve it Chess, however, is a game of two sides, black and white, and Zweig pushes his allegory even further to represent this duality As in the blind games played in Dr B s head, Germany undergoes schizophrenia of sorts, declaring war on itself by seeking to exterminate those within, be it for their religious or political views While chess becomes a solace to Dr B, it can also be observed as a metaphor of National Socialism what had roots as something empowering, something to cling to in order to rise up from the depth of depression ie his solitude or the state of Germany post WWI , can become something fierce, violent and destructive as history has revealed and as is seen in the mania that grips our hero in this tale Zweig displays a mastery over his writing much as his characters do over chess While the subject matter is sure to weigh heavy on the mind , the writing comes across effortlessly and pleasingly, almost as if it were intended to purvey an uplifting, humorous tale I had a laugh as Zweig probed my own literary pretentions, casting Czentovic s vain disinterest and quick removal from the vicinity of a chess match between two third rate players as being as naturally as any of us might toss aside a bad detective novel in a bookstore without even opening it, he walked away from our table and out of the smoking room. The language flows and manages to embrace the reader through its simplicity, although it drags along a heavy burden with it There was one aspect of the narrative that specifically caught my attention, and as I am still just a blind child testing the waters of literature, I would like to present to those of you whom I look up to this query of mine Zweig often has his narrator connect the dots for the reader, such as when Czentovic states that he allowed the draw to happen, saying I deliberately gave him a chance , a few lines later the narrator asserts that as we all knew, Czentovic had certainly not magnanimously given our unknown benefactor a chance, and this remark was nothing than a simple minded excuse for his own failure. Now, most readers would have been able to draw this conclusion themselves, and it seems a bit insulting that Zweig would feel he has to baby the reader this happens multiple times in the first thirty pages , however, as the narrator is not Zweig, or even anyone purporting to be a writer, but instead a psychologist, does that excuse the overly explanatory nature of the writing The narrator, being a psychologist, would want the reader to understand because, as he states, he wants to be able to analyze the mind of a monomaniac and this method ensures the reader is keeping up Or, on the other hand chess is black and white, might as well make room for a battle of wits here , is this method something to be a bit disappointed with Perhaps I am spoiled having read so much Faulkner in my teens and finding enjoyment in authors that leave much to the reader to piece together I would be very interested to see what my goodread friends think of this technique, as I want to excuse Zweig because he is keeping to a proper voice, yet I dislike it when authors explain things For years I ve deplored Ayn Rand for not letting so much as a scoff emit from a character without explaining the implications of the scoff Chess Story is a tiny powerhouse of depth The conclusion had me pacing back and forth in the snow smoking a cigarette to calm the ever increasing beating of my heart It is horrific, it is harrowing, it is pure brilliance floating from the page Despite it s small size, this is not a novella to be taken lightly, as it will leave a dark cloud over your thoughts once the final page has found its way into your heart Zweig is a master of the human psychology, and a master and condensing such potent messages into a tiny novella The clash between an uncaring, calculating intellect and the manic but human mind of a hero will grip you until the end, which comes both mercifully soon this book is easily read in an hour , yet far too soon The allegory is ripe and shakes you to the core.4.5 5 The fact that Zweig eliminated his own map shortly after completion of Chess Story will come as no surprise, for the darkness this story wallows in is something that an optimistic mind wouldn t dare approach As Nietzsche said if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you When I was at the edge of my teenage years, a former English teacher and close friend of mine warned me of wallowing in the darkness of literature and philosophy, telling me the longer you flirt with darkness, the it seeps into your soul , which, while being a spin on the Nietzsche quote, has never left the back of my mind From that I learned to climb out from the depths and appreciate things that satisfy a lighter side of myself, the white side of the chessboard, without spending all my time feeding the darker side Without such guidance I wouldn t be here to write this today But is it not already an insult to call chess anything so narrow as a game Is it not also a science, an art, a unique yoking of opposites, ancient and yet eternally new, mechanically constituted and yet an activity of the imagination alone, limited to a fixed geometric area but unlimited in its permutations, constantly evolving and yet sterile, a cogitation producing nothing, a mathematics calculating nothing, an art without an artwork, an architecture without substance, the only game that belongs to all peoples and all eras, while no one knows what god put it on earth to deaden boredom, sharpen the mind, and fortify the spirit Where does it begin, where does it end This book is about the workings of the mind.But before I go into that, let me start by saying that to me the name of Stefan Zweig evokes a feeling of nostalgia Of course, this is foremost due to the title of his famous memoirs, and because we know that he belonged to a world that was disappearing And probably because he realized this he decided to depart from it.But for me it creates an additional longing It makes me yearn for a world in which I did not yet exist, a world that followed Zweig s In particular the beginning of this novel, which starts out in a ship travelling from New York to Buenos Aires, at a time when these two cities, together with Shanghai, were the most cosmopolitan centers in the world, made me think of a few decades later when my parents were young and left their country and boarded on ships that would take them to New York and to Buenos Aires and other places.Nostalgia is also part of our fantasy.Zweig s novella is a meditation on the nature of the mind how it creates its own reality, how it lives thanks to sensations and perceptions, but also on how it can get trapped and fall prey to circular thinking.His story makes you think about the heart of imagination, what is the feeling of anticipation and how an inner mental projection can elicit joy Zweig presents how curiosity provides a pleasure that the mind needs, but if this curiosity is not tamed it can also enslave the mind Similarly, surprise is conceived as sudden state that gives fresh air to the mind For the reader it is easy to identify those mental phenomena, because Zweig focuses on the effects that an object, which is both simple and complex, can provide Such delicious and nourishing food for the mind is brought about by a book.Through Zweig s writing we observe the process of thinking and learning and problem solving, and how these constitute the gymnastics of the brain The mind needs to explore its limits and exert itself It needs to surmount obstacles and for this some degree of discipline is required Understanding, creativity, the power of the brain when it concentrates on a single task, the agility and flexibility that it is capable of all of these aspects parade through this tale.We also see that if the mind s nature is abstract it, however, also has to be able to project outside itself It needs to record what is in the world and absorb it, and if its space and universe is limited, its locked up habitat will be disastrous This is what Zweig calls materielle Exterritorialisierung.By studying what happens to the mind when it is put in a vacuum, in isolation, when it is on a diet of sensory stimuli, which is its vital source of energy, Zweig creates a situation of despair, a monotony that would only sound like a single tone with no rhythm He presents us the mental existence of Nothingness, in which one can only enslave himself Der Sklave des Nichts.Because related to sensory input and the capability to project onto larger space, for the mind, in spite of its cogito abilities it is essential to be able to deal with one of the most abstract concepts it needs to measure time If one is deprived of a system of proportions, time just does not exist it conflates And the mind is in the void.It is then that consciousness can split, because the mind has turned against itself, and dichotomies and paradoxes and impossibilities relish in this new schizophrenic self The poisonous obsessions possess the psyche Anxiety and patience confront each other like opposing players in a chess game.Either Nonsense or a new Self emerges.And of course, all of the above is developed through a gripping plot. Schachnovelle Le jaueur d echecs Chess Story The Royal Game, Stefan Zweig The Royal Game is a novella by Austrian author Stefan Zweig first published in 1941, just before the author s death by suicide In some editions, the title is used for a collection that also includes Amok , Burning Secret , Fear , and Letter From an Unknown Woman Driven to mental anguish as the result of total isolation by the National Socialists, Dr B, a monarchist hiding valuable assets of the nobility from the new regime, maintains his sanity only through the theft of a book of past masters chess games which he plays endlessly, voraciously learning each one until they overwhelm his imagination to such an extent that he becomes consumed by chess After absorbing every single move of any variation in the book, and having nothing to explore, Dr B begins to play the game against himself, developing the ability to separate his psyche into two personas I White and I Black This psychological conflict causes him to ultimately suffer a breakdown, after which he eventually awakens in a sanatorium Being saved by a sympathetic physician, who attests his insanity to keep him from being imprisoned again by the Nazis, he is finally set free After happening to be on the same cruise liner as a group of chess enthusiasts and the world chess champion Czentovic, he incidentally stumbles across their game against the champion Mirko Czentovic was a peasant prodigy possessing no obvious redeeming qualities besides his gift for chess Dr B helps the chess enthusiasts in managing to draw their game in an almost hopeless position After this effort, they persuade him to play alone against Czentovic In a stunning demonstration of his imaginative and combinational powers, Dr B sensationally beats the world champion Czentovic immediately suggests a return game to restore his honour But this time, having sensed that Dr B played quite fast and hardly took time to think, he tries to irritate his opponent by taking several minutes before making a move, thereby putting psychological pressure on Dr B, who gets and impatient as the game proceeds His greatest power turns out to be his greatest weakness he devolves into rehearsing imagined matches against himself repeatedly and manically Czentovic s deliberation and placidness drive Dr B to distraction and ultimately to insanity, culminating in an incorrect statement, after which Dr B awakens from his frenzy 1974 1325 1334 75 1395 110. Stefan Zweig created an extraordinary, exciting, thought provoking novel in a typical, virtuosic self writing style.
nothing on earth exerts such pressure on the human soul as a void. 19 Black White Which is it Which one is our nature We can be good, we can be cruel We praise ourselves saying being human entails being good We have daily proofs that is not necessary the case If we are meant to be good and we are not, our mind have lost the battle against a deviation Or against our true nature Now that is a depressing thought.I had this book on my to read shelf for months And I wasn t going to read it this soon A Goodreads group crossed my path and here I am I am so glad it did I was missing a brilliant, perceptive observer of the human condition Zweig had a keen eye to deal with the psychological aspects of human beings with the simplicity that characterizes great writers Humble erudition is what makes me love an author Complicated writing and pretentious words are fine if they are used properly otherwise, everything is forgettable I don t only need to know that you know let me learn too Black White The mind has to choose A million possibilities lying in a black and white board with sixty four little squares dividing A from B Day from night Good from evil A dichotomy present in every human life It is there, inside, waiting for a decision You are thinking Which path should I take Time Time is needed to decide And often it is not enough.Keep the pressure on, advance instead of defending 14 Zweig seems to be the kind of author that share the characters psyches without hesitation That help us understand Even while writing about how the mind is supposed to work, with the complexity that such a task entails But he succeeded and with a beautiful, simple and refreshing prose You feel what he wrote He tended to repeat keywords in order to emphasize a particular situation, thought, feeling, etc that embellishes the sentence with a unique melody.The novella starts with a recount of Mirko Czentovic s story, the world chess champion A young man whose ignorance was universal in all fields, but played chess like no one in the world and was now visiting my dear Buenos Aires As soon as Mirko had done his chores around the house, he sat stolidly in the living room with that vacant gaze seen in sheep out at pasture, paying not the least attention to what was going on around him 5 That was described as apathy To be able to switch off the inner processes that often haunt us, just for a minute, in order to subtract yourself from reality and dwell in reverie Or nothing To think nothing To want nothing To put the restless soul in a lethargic state without knowing what is going on around us WellAnyway, the boy learnt to play chess only by looking at some men playing it Hard to imagine, and I am not saying it because I tried that when I was younger But why on earth would I question that fact in literature Strangest things have happened Czentovic was a grotesque, simple minded boy lost in the world of the mind A boy that in a relatively short period of time, after tasting the bittersweet elixir of money and fame, became a cold, ostentatiously proud person Unfortunately, several times I had the unpleasant experience of seeing how a simple person that came from a humble background could turn into an arrogant figure after achieving some material success.Arrogance and confidence are two different things And that relies on the fact that despite his annoying pride, Czentovic was still insecure He never talked to well educated people because he feared he would say something stupid Behind that self absorbed body language, an overwhelming insecurity was hidden.There is psychological material in everyone, even in the apparently simplest man of all Black White A steppenwolf inside Which nature will defeat the other Does our opinion matter And, which one are we A B Both The reckless combination of light and darkness Always obsessively looking for a referent An answer A cure The permanence of sanity.You were left irredeemably alone with yourself, your body, and the four or five silent objects, table, bed, window, washbasin There was nothing to do, nothing to hear, nothing to see, you were surrounded everywhere, all the time, by the void, that entirely spaceless, timeless vacuum You walked up and down, and your thoughts went up and down with you, up and down, again and again But even thoughts, insubstantial as they may seem, need something to fix on, or they begin to rotate and circle aimlessly around themselves they can t tolerate a vacuum either You kept waiting for something from morning to evening, and nothing happened You waited again, and yet again Nothing happened You waited, waited, waited, you thought, you thought, you thought until your head was aching Nothing happened You were left alone Alone Alone 19 This novella was a delight to read All the characters amused me or disgusted me with the same intensity Zweig described them so vividly His writing reflects the characters mood with perfection I could almost hear the sneer coming from McConnor s rage after losing his first game I could almost see Czentovic s cold and defying eyes while playing his insensitive game Or Dr B predicting all the possible moves with ecstatic frenzy I suddenly became another eager witness in the middle of a growing excitement I could also feel the oppression of his soul while he was narrating his confinement in an empty room I read and absorbed it all His despair, his tedium, sorrow and fear I was to retch and retch on my own thoughts until they choked me 21 In conclusion, intriguing plot, interesting characters, situations described so vividly that you can almost touch them and a magnificent, accessible writing with the power to dazzle you until the end Yes and a thousand times yes Another writer to admire Black White And we are in the middle, surrounded by many combinations, many possibilities, paths and decisions Two sides of us coexisting in one body Perhaps, two people writing these rambling thoughts Thoughts and thoughts Questioning, torturing, haunting.We are in the middle No king has been defeated, yet Life ironically cries Checkmate.May 14, 14 Also on my blog Photo credit Photo 1 via schachzweig.dePhoto 2 via DataTracks e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 An interesting short story that it s one of the most famous works by the writer Stefan Zweig that even sadly was published after his suicide d4 Bg4 When a story is presented in another language, some elements are lost in the translation, and I think that while Chess Story is a pretty good title, its original title was The Royal Game that I think it gives to the story an air of refinement, class and elegance dxe5 Bxf3 Besides my interest to try this author, I was intrigued about this short story that evidently was about the game of kings, chess I am not a good player of chess and I remember how an uncle of mine that he was the one who taught me, he always beat me, every single game, and only once I was able to beat him, I was still a little kid but I clearly remember still how I ran around the house celebrating my victory over my teacher Qxf3 dxe5 6 Bc4 Nf6 And interesting enough, I remember this time not so many long ago when I was on vacations in a jungle lodge along with my then girlfriend and meanwhile we were waiting for a lodge s boat for a river tour, quite early in the morning, we were on the lodge s game room and there was a chessboard She asked me if I was interested to play meanwhile the boat would be ready We play, she lost, and we never play chess any in the trip Qb3 Qe7 There is an odd effect when we lose on a chess game I think that anybody thinks that the victor is smarter than the loser Even, there is the odd custom to think that any chessplayer, and even a grandmaster must be a really intelligent person If someone is really good at poker, people can consider him her like a wiseguy and or a street smart , but in chess Oh, they must be intelligent Nc3 I remember a trivia about the movies of X Men that the production team had to look for a chess teacher for Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen, since they needed to do some scenes playing chess, adn they didn t know how to play chess I couldn t believe it Two old BRITISH actors whom seemed so wise that didn t know how to play chess Again, the common preconception of society that intelligent people should know how to play chess Curiously enough, they didn t need to do any complicated moves and nevertheless they looked for a Chess Grandmaster to teach them c6 It was amusing how this short story reminded me about three TV episodes from the Star Trek franchise Let that be your Last Battlefield The Original Series, 1969 , where you have the last two surviving aliens after a terrible war between two races of a planet where ones had black on the left side of the body and white on the right side, and the others just the opposite positions of the same colors Peak Performance The Next Generation, 1989 , where a Federation strategist master, who is quite arrogant, sure of himself on his tactics knowledge, puts on test in war games to the Enterprise D s crew And finally Chain of Command Parts 1 2 The Next Generation, 1992 , where Captain Picard is captured and submitted to a cruel interrogation Since Chess Story was originally published on 1942, I wouldn t be surprised that the writers of those episodes took inspiration from several elements of this short story to develop their own scripts Bg5 b5 It s quite interesting that the narrator of this story, while he is present and even he interacts with the main characters, one doesn t know what is his name and even he is not really pivotal on the evolution of the events Nxb5 And commenting about that, it s quite odd to pick protagonist and antagonist in this story Sure, you can hasten on calling Czentovic as the antagonist and Dr B as the protagonist However, is that simple Both has complicated issues, both has conflictive personalities depending the situation Surely, you can sympathize easier with Dr B s past but is Czentovic really guilty of how he is now Or his own past is also kinda exculpatory of his current personality cxb5 Maybe Czentovic and Dr B are playing in black white boards but hardly they can be seen in so pragmatic absolutes, instead they have a lot of shades of gray Bxb5 Nbd7 0 0 0 Something that impacted me on the reading of this crafty short story is that both main characters, Czentovic and Dr B, they share an equal sad trait both lost the joy of playing chess Sure, both are masters on the royal game, but honestly, neither of them are enjoying to play it any Rd8 Rxd7 Rxd7 I couldn t dare to know for real what Stefan Zweig wanted to tell to his readers but at least to me, I got an important lesson You shouldn t never to get so obsessive while doing what you do for love, reaching a level where you don t enjoy any of doing it Rd1 Everybody has passions but when you get obssesed about it, you lose the joy of doing it The most important thing is to keep enjoying whatever you do for the fun of doing it Qe6 Life is too short Enjoy whatever you do And even something that it s considered as a hobby, an activity of relaxation, can be perverted if you don t enjoy any while doing it Bxd7 Nxd7 Commenting about something else, I can t avoid to tell how much amusent provoked me when the priest, who took care of Czentovic, exclaimed Balaam s ass Honestly, I don t what a priest usually says when he is shocked or when he needs to curse, but reading that exclamation was priceless So funny Qb8 I am truly glad of having read this short story and I hope to read some material by this author in the future Nxb8 17 Rd8 Checkmate Nuff said